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Sincerity in Worship is most important

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Tue Jul 20 1999 - 11:31:01 PDT

Dear Bhaktas,

Often, Sri Krishnamachari's series on Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam
inspires me to browse Parasara Bhattar's original commentary
on the 1000 names.  It is surprising how many great thoughts
are contained in this single work of Bhattar's; or, perhaps
it is not a surprise, given that it comes from an thinker of
Bhattar's heights.

For those who are unaware, Sri Parasara Bhattar was a junior
contemporary of Ramannuja and the son of Kurattalvan, Ramanuja's
chief disciple and confidant.  Bhattar's insights are legendary,
and I wish to share one with you today. 

In the introduction to his Sahasranama bhashya, aptly titled
"A Mirror of the Glories of God" (bhagavad-guNa-darpaNa), Bhattar
discusses how nAma sankIrtana is equivalent or even better than
the greatest of austerities.  The objection is that in no way
can an "easy" form of worship such as nAma sankIrtana yield the
same result as arduous tapas, or elaborate worship.

Bhattar replies by quoting several texts which show that God is
pleased only by sincerity of worship and not by its grandeur
or difficulty.  This may seem obvious to us, but the way Bhattar 
phrases his words and imbues them with such authority makes for 
truly great reading:

      God is delighted by the great sincerity of mind
      of the devotee.

      For, it is said, "[Even a person of wicked conduct, 
      if he takes to bhakti], is rightly resolved." (Gita 9.30);
      "A leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even a little water is 
      enough..." (Gita 9.26); "He is not pleased with offerings
      of wealth, or property, or clothes, or ornaments, but only 
      with a [pure and sincere] heart.  Who then will not worship 
      him?" (Vishnu Dharma). 

      ... Again, the Vishnu Dharma says, "Even if a person offers the
      whole world with all its precious stones to Krishna, he will
      not easily reach Janardana, if his mind is elsewhere," etc.

      The fundamental basis on which goodness and badness 
      are determined is the difference in mental attitude, and
      not the particular action. 

      It is stated, "Fish live in the holy Ganga and other rivers, 
      birds regularly flock to temples; but they do not benefit from
      these holy places because they lack the necessary state of mind."

      It is only proper that, as God is omniscient, has no wish
      of His unfulfilled, and seeks nothing from others, He should be
      pleased by a pure mind and not by the offer of insignificant
      wealth.  With even a little worship, though it be imperfect
      in place, time, or other circumstance, He is pleased as if it
      were perfect and complete.  As they say, the rule is that one
      who is wise is satisfied by the truth.  This is but logical.
      A virtuous king regards with parental affection a person who,
      in spite of difficulties, conducts himself in a fair manner,
      as if he (the subject) has rendered him great help.

      In conclusion, it is the conviction of Bhishma that sankIrtana
      and and similar disciplines are the best form of worship of
      the Lord for the following and other reasons:

      (a) Such worship is of the dearest Beloved and is therefore
          performed with ease and no effort
      (b) It can be done conveniently with little or no expense
          or exertion
      (c) It is attractive, because it is inspired by the feeling
          that it is being offered to please one's own master, not
          far away
      (d) Though such service is comparatively easy, it secures
          to the worshipper the great fruit of freedom from the fear
          of samsAra, which is (normally) attainable only after
          great difficulty and exertion
      (e) There is no fault even if the performance is not strictly
          regular or in the proper manner
      (f) All are qualified to do this worship, so it is suitable
          for everyone
      (g) It is not dependent on any condition, and therefore need
          not be abandoned because of time, place, or other circumstance
      (h) Owing to the glory of God, the object of worship, there can
          be no obstruction to the attainment of the goal.

Bhattar tells us not to constantly fret about our inability to
do elaborate worship; he in fact implies that elaborate worship
is unnecessary, as in the end everything is dependent purely on
God's grace, and God only cares about the sincerity and purity 
in th mind. 

Let's do what we can with a pure heart, and God will take care of 
the rest. This is the message of Bhattar.

bhaTTar tiruvaDigaLE SaraNam
 
aDiyEn, 
Mani